You Can Now Text 911 in DC


If you are in distress and cannot speak on the phone perhaps because of an emergency or you’re hiding from an assailant, you can now Text 911 for help in select jurisdictions, including Washington, DC, the latest locale to offer the option.

In April, the Federal Communications Commission released a fact sheet about the availability of the alternative to calling 911 and in it, the regulatory agency encouraged all jurisdictions across the nation to consider making accommodations for their respective residents.

In a release put out this Wednesday, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the new option.

“Text to 911 gives people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech disability as well as those who could be put in more danger by calling 911 an immediate connection to emergency services,” said Mayor Bowser. “Text to 911 is the latest example of how we are using every resource possible to make Washington, DC safer and stronger for all residents.”


Text to 911 requires a smartphone that is capable of sending text messages and has Location Services enabled. Text messages must be brief, easily understood, and in plain English (no abbreviations, shortcuts, or slang), according to the release which also outlined when it would be appropriate to text 911:

  • If a person is the victim of a crime and the perpetrator is still in the area, such as an assault, robbery, or a domestic violence incident.
  • When people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a speech disability need to reach 911.
  • In situations where a person has sustained an injury that prevents him/her from speaking.

Because not all areas are equipped to accept it, the FCC requires all wireless carriers and other text messaging providers to send an automatic “bounce-back” message that will advise the person trying to reach emergency help that he/she needs to  to contact emergency services by another means, such as making a voice call or using a telecommunications relay machine.